SYDNEY: Australia is attempting to accelerate its sluggish COVID-19 vaccination rollout by encouraging Sydney residents to get their second AstraZeneca shot after two months instead of three.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday he encouraged people to take a second dose of AstraZeneca after two months given a growing cluster of the delta variant that has locked down Sydney for at least three weeks.
Only 10% of Australians over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated. That combined with Australia recording fewer than 31,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic began leaves the population particularly vulnerable to the delta variant, which was first identified in India and is thought more contagious than the original virus and other variants.
Sydney reported on Thursday 38 new cases involving the delta variant in the latest 24-hour period. That was the largest daily tally since a cluster emerged after a limousine driver tested positive on June 16. He is thought to have been infected while transporting a U.S. flight crew from Sydney airport. Around 400 cases are now linked to that driver.
Australian-manufactured AstraZeneca was supposed to become the backbone of Australia’s vaccination program when its rollout began in March. AstraZeneca was initially recommended for all adults in two doses 12 weeks apart.
The vaccine is now only recommended in Australia for adults over age 60 after two women aged 48 and 52 died from rare blood clots that were blamed on AstraZeneca's product.